Our Halloween special covers two subjects perfect for your next macabre dinner party: how the witch gained her powers, and the myriad alternatives to a casket. Caitlin Doughty, the Internet’s favorite mortician, tells us about her world travels in search of the holy grail of corpse interaction—along with a few other stories that illuminate our changing relationship with the afterlife. And Ronald Hutton, medieval historian and witch expert, goes into the history of fear surrounding one of the oldest scapegoats in the world.
Go beyond the episode:
- Caitlin Doughty’s From Here to Eternity
- Ronald Hutton’s The Witch
- Ask a Mortician all about coffin birth, ghost marriage, and the iconic corpses of the world on Caitlin’s YouTube channel
- Read more about the Order of the Good Death, an organization of funeral professionals working to change attitudes about death
- Virtually visit the high-tech Ruriden Columbarium in Tokyo, Japan with head monk Yajima Taijun
- For the flip side of witchcraft, watch Ronald Hutton’s dramatic documentary about the good ones—A Very British Witchcraft, about the founder of modern Wicca
- And for some spooky Halloween viewing, watch The Witch, our host’s favorite movie about witches—featured on Vulture’s list of top 15 witch movies, if you’re dying for more
A selection of Landis Blair’s illustrations of scenes in South Sulawesi, Tokyo, and La Paz:
Tune in every two weeks to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)
Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
Music featured from Master Toad (“Dreadful Mansion”), Dead End Canada (“Witch Hunt”), and 8bit Betty (“Spooky Loop”), courtesy of the Free Music Archive. Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.